Wood upstands in kitchen - are they a good idea?

25 Jun 2006
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United Kingdom
I hope I'm posting in the right section, but need some advice from anyone with expereince of solid wood worktops and upstands. Our kitchen is just about to be re-fitted with solid oak worktops. We wanted oak upstands as we weren't keen on the alternatives (tiles, stainless steel or glass upstands) which our kitchen designer said would be fine. However, our kitchen fitter now says that it is impossible to make the join between the worktop and the upstand completely waterproof and over time, the join will become mouldy and turn black and therefore is reluctant to fit the wood upstand. Does anyone have any experience of fitting or living with this arrangement and would you advise us to go ahead?
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Well, for starters your kitchen designer should have warned you that oak (and walnut, too) can be a problem as kitchen worktops. They contain relatively high levels of tannin, which in conjunction with water creates tannic acid. Leave a wet cast iron pan or even a low-grade stainless steel impliment on a worktop in contact with water overnight and that tannic acid can give you a nice indelible black mark (ferrous oxide) in the timber. That means you have to keep up with oiling the worktops and keep them dry almost all the time - never leave stuff to drain for hours let alone overnight.

As to the upstands, the way to approach them is not to take the standard kitchen fitter's approach of plonking them on top of the worktop with a bit of silicone in the joint. Ideally for a water-tight joint they need to be glued and cramped together with a waterproof glue, such as UF (urea formaldehyde) glue after the top has been jointed and all the cut-outs, drip grooves, etc have been done. This will mean that it won't be possible to scribe the back of the worktop against the wall, so I hope your plasterer did a good job! For a more durable and moisture resistant joint I'd rebate the upstand into the top as well (see below). To further prevent the growth of mould in the corners I'd also suggest putting a triangular or coved (rounded) fillet into the corner, thus:



The reasons for the growth of mould are - sharp corner between top/upstand where moisture/dirt can be trapped, leaving worktop damp for extended periods, inappropriate glue used for joint (e.g. PVA or polyurethane instead of a true waterproof glue such as UF or epoxy) and slack joints between top and upstand allowing water to get trapped in the joint. I doubt any joiner would see any problem in solving this.

Thank you very much for your very helpful reply. I will pass the information on to our joiner.

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